GROMACKI SUES FULLERTON
By DOUG IRVING AND JANIS CARR / THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
FULLERTON – Titans softball coach Michelle Gromacki claims in a lawsuit that school officials harassed and humiliated her after she demanded better facilities for women athletes and a salary equal to that of the baseball coach.
Gromacki says she was put under investigation and on paid leave during part of the 2011 season in retaliation for her complaints. Her lawsuit does not give specifics about that investigation, except to quote an administrator as saying he was concerned about an allegation “of how (she) treated her players.”
Titans softball coach Michelle Gromacki claims in a lawsuit that school officials harassed and humiliated her after she demanded better facilities for women athletes and a salary equal to that of the baseball coach.
She was allowed back to work three weeks after she was escorted from her office in front of her players, according to her lawsuit. She took her complaints to court earlier this week, claiming that Cal State Fullerton had violated the state’s Equal Pay Act and illegally retaliated against her for complaining.
The school’s athletic director did not return calls, but the university released a statement saying, “We have just received this week the allegations made in the lawsuit brought by Head Softball Coach Michelle Gromacki, and we contest many of the alleged facts and all of the legal claims and conclusions made in it.
“The university plans a vigorous defense in court. We have confidence that in the course of the legal process any actions taken by the university in relation to our Coach will be found to have been lawful and appropriate.”
Gromacki has coached the Titans to five Big West Conference softball championships in her 13 seasons as the head coach. The school’s online profile describes her as one of the winningest softball coaches in the history of the Big West; she’s one of four coaches in the conference with 400 victories. Her contract expires at the end of the month.
She did not return a phone call to a number thought to be her cell phone. The voice mail on her office phone was full and not accepting messages. Her attorneys also did not return phone calls.
Gromacki says in her lawsuit that she had questioned why the men’s baseball team had better facilities than her softball team, such as indoor batting cages and a VIP room for fans. She had also complained that her $88,000-a-year salary was less than that paid to the coach of Fullerton’s nationally ranked baseball team.
The school launched an investigation of Gromacki in February 2011 and put her on paid leave for three weeks during her softball season, according to the suit. It’s not clear what that investigation was about; Gromacki’s lawsuit mentions an administrator’s concern with her treatment of players and days missing from her time sheets, but gives no further details.
Gromacki missed three weekend tournaments and two home games during her leave of absence, according to her lawsuit. The leave also cost Gromacki a possible assistant-coach position with Team USA, which she had helped coach to two gold medals in 2010, according to her lawsuit.
She claims the investigation was retaliation from the school and its athletic directors “because of her aforesaid complaints.” She says in her lawsuit that Athletic Director Brian Quinn later offered her a raise to $100,000 to “see this all go away.” According to the lawsuit, that was still nearly $50,000 less than the baseball coach makes.
Gromacki’s lawsuit does not put a dollar amount on the damages she wants. But it does claim that she has lost $200,000 a year in salary, benefits and other money that should have been paid under the Equal Pay Act.
It also seeks a permanent injunction barring Cal State Fullerton from using funds intended for women’s sports on men’s baseball.
LASALLE HIRES SHOEMAKER
PHILADELPHIA – Ron Shoemaker, a former assistant softball coach at La Salle from 1994-97 who has ten years of Division I coaching experience, has been named the head softball coach for the Explorers, director of athletics Dr. Tom Brennan announced today.
“Ron brings a great deal of experience at the NCAA Division I level, especially in our geographical area,” Brennan said. “He is committed to the student-athlete experience and has had success at every stop during his career. We look forward to him leading our softball program.”
“I am so very honored to be named the head coach at La Salle University,” Shoemaker said. “I look forward to working with the student-athletes, coaches and administration in an effort to bring La Salle Softball to a prominent place in both the region and the Atlantic 10.”
Shoemaker helped guide the Explorers to four consecutive conference tournament berths in his four years at 20th and Olney, twice in the Midwestern Collegiate Conference and twice after joining the Atlantic 10 Conference. The Explorers went 54-44 and garnered four All-Conference picks during the first two seasons in the A-10, as well as two All-Conference and two All-Newcomer picks in the MCC.
He comes back to La Salle from Saint Joseph’s, where he has served as an assistant under Terri Adams since 2009. In his four seasons on Hawk Hill, he helped guide the squad to the Atlantic 10 Tournament each year as well as two championship game appearances. He coached 15 Atlantic 10 All-Conference, 11 Atlantic 10 All-Tournament Team and four All-Region players in his four years.
Shoemaker also coached at Temple from 2002-05, which included an Atlantic 10 Tournament title and appearance in the NCAA Regional in 2004. The Owls advanced to the Atlantic 10 Tournament in each of Shoemaker’s four seasons at Temple.
He got his start in college softball as an assistant at Mercer County (N.J.) College from 1991-93.